Joseph Szabo’s Teenage Daydream

A New Documentary Reveals the Characters Captured by the Quietly Influential Photographer

Lauded by Time as "American photography's best kept secret", Joseph Szabo shares previously unseen shots of idyllic teenage life in the 1970s, drawn from the thousands he took while teaching photography for over three decades at Malvern High School, Long Island. First photographing his art students as a way to connect with them during classes, Szabo later went to their parties, homes and hang-outs, developing a mutual concern and care for his subjects. “That intimacy was just so important,” he explains. “When I first went to one of their parties I thought I was crazy, but when I got there the students were so joyous: ‘Mr Szabo’s here! Mr Szabo’s here!’” Collected by the likes of Bruce Weber and Sofia Coppola, Szabo's candid portraits of small town adolescence are collaged together in George P. Pozderec and David Khachatorian’s new documentary, The Joseph Szabo Project. Inspired by the photographer's books Almost Grown and Teenage, the directors unveil the lives and stories of the photographer's juvenile subjects. “No matter how old or young you are, you connect with the photos,” Szabo muses. “Wherever you find high school kids, in whatever decade, they might dress a little bit different, they might look a bit different, but underneath they’re all basically the same.”

Coming of Age in America: The Photography of Joseph Szabo
runs at The Heckscher Museum of Art in New York from 14 January to 25 March, 2012. For more information on The Joseph Szabo Project check out their website.

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